Last year, my roommate and I hauled a dresser all the way from Avenue Coloniale to Rue Saint-Urbain. Struggling to carry it, we lugged it down the crowded sidewalk as the people lined up outside of Schwartz’s Deli watched. Like many McGill students, we had relied on McGill Free and For Sale—a Facebook group that takes you across the city for the cheapest finds on anything ranging from textbooks, to mattresses, to vintage dresses to record players—since moving into our apartment in second year.
The Facebook group was created in 2015 and now boasts over 18,000 members. It is no surprise, then, that many other students share my love for the group. Christal OuYang, U2 Arts, who joined the Facebook group in her second year, remembers carrying a lamp she bought across downtown Montreal last year.
“When I bought my lamp during Christmas break, the streets were super busy,” OuYang said. “I went all the way to Concordia and my friend and I carried it all the way back to our apartment in the Plateau. It was this five-foot-tall lamp and we had to lift [it] above our heads because there were too many people on the streets.”
Travelling around the city to pick up cheap finds is a quintessential part of the McGill experience. While many use the group to furnish their apartments, the group is also known for its hidden treasures. OuYang recalls finding a creative gift for her friend among the listings.
“For Christmas, I ordered a bunch of gifts online that never showed up, so I went on Free and For Sale and found a mini Winnie the Pooh waffle maker,” OuYang said. “My friend loves Winnie the Pooh so I got it for her [….] It was the furthest I had trekked in Montreal by myself.”
Students can find virtually anything while scrolling through the numerous items for sale. Eve Cable, U3 Arts, found her pandemic companion—a giant 50-pound teddy bear—while browsing the McGill Free and For Sale page.
“I bought my eight-foot-tall bear Bearnie last March for $30,” Cable said. “He is normally about $300 in stores, so we got a sweet deal for him at a tenth of the price. He has been more than worth for the novelty factor of having an eight-foot bear in my house.”
Marketplace, a Facebook platform connecting buyers and sellers in the same region, shares a similar purpose to Free and For sale. On both platforms, users often bargain for better deals, since buyers communicate directly with the seller.
While both groups are great places to find hidden gems, there is a special feeling tied to purchasing an item directly from a fellow student—an experience the intimate McGill Free and For Sale group offers. Buyers may even feel more connected to their community in the process.
“It’s nice to see [other students’] faces,” OuYang said. “I felt less worried going into their house. It is cool to see where everyone’s living […] and to hear their stories [….] I like knowing that the things I’m buying used to belong to a McGill student.”
The McGill Free and For Sale group speaks to the nature of the McGill community, which manages to remain tight-knit despite the vast amount of students who attend the university. In a time when students are scattered across Montreal, and the world, having a sense of community is more important than ever. Online platforms have provided an important opportunity for individuals to maintain bonds with their peers, even without the usual campus experiences. We may be somewhat dispersed, but we are still connected, too.